A life-changing health scare was the catalyst for change for Dean Ward.
When he realised the stresses of his job had triggered a suspected stroke, he decided this was a turning point. It became the foundation of a new and exciting chapter for the experienced property professional. Using his experience and extensive knowledge of the sector, Dean founded DCW Group, a property consultancy firm which has the potential for rapid growth thanks to the innovative tech solution that underpins the business.
DCW Group has been supported through Business Wales Accelerated Growth Programme (AGP). The AGP provides targeted support for ambitious growing firms. The programme is part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund through the Welsh Government.
Here, Dean Ward, founder and CEO of the DCW Group, explains how he started the company, how he has nurtured its growth and his vision for the future.
Tell us about DCW Group
I’ll start with what we do. We’re a residential and commercial development consultancy, which supports clients as they go through the process of acquiring and developing land for commercial purposes. But the company is much more than just that, to me. It was born out of a very real and life-changing experience. I’d been working in the property sector for 18 years, for the likes of Barratt Homes, Countrywide Residential Development and Wates Residential.
When I was 36, I suffered a suspected stroke. It was later diagnosed as a stress-induced migraine and vertigo. It led me to reassess what I was doing and where I wanted to go with my life. I’d been working for years with industry leaders, and so I had plenty of experience and knowledge. So, I decided to quit my job and start my own venture.
Initially, DCW Group was founded as a consultancy business, but I found the process of gathering the necessary data and conducting due diligence to be incredibly costly and time consuming.
I started to look at what platforms and services were out there to make that whole process easier. To my surprise, I found there’d only ever been one solution! It was a Canadian business that had failed to turn its concept into a viable product.
I got in touch with that company’s former CEO and what I learned was that the business had essentially lacked one key element – experience. It was a clear case of tech trying to do property, rather than property trying to do tech. But experience was something I obviously had in abundance!
These conversations spurred me on to engage with tech specialists to build the DCW Insights SaaS (software as a service) platform, with the aim of helping clients easily gather, analyse and process all the necessary information to speed up projects and reduce costs. Now, the platform can reduce the typical time these processes take on a project from months to minutes, saving the average customer £100,000 in costs.
The platform has proved to be incredibly popular, and within minutes of the Minimum Viable Product (MVP) going live, it had 328 users – a potential £3.2m in revenue – signed up to use it.
With further development we’re confident the business could turnover more than £380m a year and generate 200 jobs in the process. One of the decisions I had to make early on was rejecting an initial acquisition offer, which I think was quite brave but also necessary to get the business to where I want it to be.
After all that I’ve been through to get to this point, I’m incredibly excited about what the future holds.
What are your proudest moments in business so far?
Awards are a good reflection of how your business is perceived and we’ve recently been privileged to win two Wales Start-up Awards, the Swansea Bay start-up of the year award and Business-to-Business Award. I’m incredibly proud of that, and I’m also proud of the obstacles I’ve overcome to bring my idea to life. Being an entrepreneur has been a hugely rewarding experience so far, and winning awards is just a part of that journey.
What challenges have you faced in business?
Clearly my health scare was a massive challenge, but it was also the trigger for me to turn my experience into something positive.
I think challenges can often be turned into opportunities, especially when it comes to entrepreneurship. I feel like I’ve come so far since that moment when I thought I’d had a stroke.
If you were starting again, what would you do differently?
I’m really proud of having self-funded the business, but I think having investors on board from the beginning would have made cashflow easier, and would have allowed me to learn lessons, particularly in regard to our tech, much more quickly.
How has support from Business Wales AGP helped your business?
We’ve had support through Business Wales Accelerated Growth Programme (AGP) which has been invaluable. For example we were able to access support from a brilliant tech developer who helped us overcome some crucial barriers and turned my idea into a viable product ready for client use.
What advice and guidance would you give other businesses starting out?
- Do your research – know the market in which you want to operate, inside out.
- Know your competition and don’t be afraid to talk to them – it’s an invaluable opportunity to learn.
- Stick to what you know and enjoy – this will help you when times are tough.
- Don’t self-sabotage or listen to feelings of imposter syndrome.
- Don’t have a fixed mindset – the ability to adapt and be flexible is crucial in overcoming challenges in business.
To learn more about DCW Group, visit here.
Further information on the Business Wales Accelerated Growth Programme.